Gov. Cuomo cautions NY residents following local brush fires

Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) — Following recent brush fires in places like Allegany and Cattaraugus counties, Gov. Cuomo is urging residents to help prevent wildfires.

Cuomo says a statewide ban on open burning is in effect through May 14 amid expected high temperatures.

“The residential brush burning ban in effect until mid-May will help protect the health and well-being of both New Yorkers and first responders, as warm weather conditions are expected this spring,” Cuomo said. “I urge New Yorkers to be proactive and prepare for dry weather by taking steps to protect loved ones and property from the dangers of wildfires, and to ensure the safety of communities across the state.”

The burn ban, which went into effect on March 16, has some exceptions, which the governor’s office lists as the following:

  • Campfires less than 3 feet in height and 4 feet in length, width or diameter are allowed.
  • Small cooking fires are allowed.
  • Fires cannot be left unattended and must be fully extinguished.
  • Only charcoal or clean, untreated or unpainted wood can be burned.
  • Ceremonial or celebratory bonfires are allowed.

18.9 million of New York’s 30.0 million acres of land is forested.

“Our Forest Rangers have already been busy battling wildfires across the state, and many of these events are preventable,” Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “We rely on our municipal firefighters and the public to be our partners in protecting our natural resources and communities from wildfire damage and ask for their help in containing and preventing wildfires.”

Through the end of June, the National Weather Service says the state is expected to see higher-than-average temperatures. These could increase the chances of wildfires, which can quickly spread.

Here are tips for preventing wildfires and taking precaution, provided by Gov. Cuomo’s office:

Precautions to Take:

  • Make Home Address Visible: Make sure the number of your home address is clearly visible on your house so that emergency personnel can find it from the road, and ensure that fire vehicles can access your home easily.
  • List Your Belongings: Review your homeowner’s insurance policy and make a list of the contents of your home.
  • Help Your Neighbors: Talk to your neighbors about wildfire safety, and consider how you could help neighbors with special needs.

 
Prepare Your Property:

  • Inspect your home’s exterior at least once a year, and make outdoor spring cleaning a habit. Remove all dry grass, brush, and dead leaves within 30 feet of your home. Space trees and shrubs at least ten feet apart. Reduce the number of trees in heavily wooded areas, get rid of old tree stumps, and remove any vines growing on the side of your home.
  • Mow your lawn regularly.
  • Stack firewood and scrap wood piles away from any buildings and clear away flammable vegetation close to the piles.
  • Clean chimneys and stove pipes, and check their screens.
  • Avoid letting flammable materials like rags and newspapers accumulate near buildings or utilities.
  • Prune the lower branches of tall trees to within six feet of the ground to keep surface fires from spreading into tree tops.
  • Clear pine needles, leaves, or other debris from your roof and gutters. Remove tree limbs or dead branches hanging over your roof, and ask your power company to clear branches from power lines.
  • Keep a hose attached to a working outside faucet that can be used to put out a small fire on or around your home when temperatures are above freezing.

Prevent Wildfires From Occurring:

  • Follow local burning laws. Open burning is the single greatest cause of wildfires across New York State. Familiarize yourself with DEC’s open burning regulations.
  • Contact your local fire department for further information on fire laws.
  • Report hazardous conditions that could cause a wildfire.
  • Check on local restrictions on campfires if you are planning to go camping or spend time in the woods. Don’t leave a campfire unattended, and make sure the fire is completely out before leaving it.
  • Dispose of smoking materials and matches properly.
  • Take extra care in dry grass. Don’t park or idle your vehicle on it, and don’t set hot gas-powered equipment in it.

 
Know What To Do When A Wildfire Occurs:

  • Call 9-1-1 if you see a wildfire. Don’t assume somebody else has called the fire department, and do not panic. Describe the location of the fire, speak slowly and clearly, and answer any questions from the dispatcher.
  • Establish lines of communication with local authorities and fire departments. Follow your local emergency personnel on Facebook and Twitter, and know how to reach them via phone and in person.
  • Wear protective clothing and footwear.

Prepare for evacuation:

  • Shut off natural gas, propane, and fuel oil supplies at the source.
  • Remove firewood, fuel, and debris from your yard.
  • Close windows and doors in your home.
  • If you are evacuating by car, include your go-kit and mementos. If evacuation is imminent, put your pets in the car and be ready to leave quickly.
  • Turn on outside lights to make the house more visible in heavy smoke.

 
Terms to Know:

  • Surface Fire: fire that spreads via leaf litter and low-level vegetation, like bushes
  • Crown Fire: fire that “crowns,” or spreads to the top branches of trees, and can spread at an incredible pace through the top of a forest
  • Jumping Fire: burning branches and leaves carried by wind sometimes start distant fires; fire can “jump” over roads and rivers
  • Fire Weather Alert: a watch issued by the U.S. National Weather Service to alert authorities that Red Flag conditions may develop
  • Red Flag Warning: a warning issued by the U.S. National Weather Service to indicate that a fire would spread rapidly if it broke out due to low humidity, high winds, and low moisture.

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